- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The political rancor over the federal debt-limit crisis heading into the August congressional recess appears to have left would-be Democratic donors with a bad taste in their mouths. Figures released Tuesday night show the Democratic National Committee making its poorest fundraising showing in months.

The $5.4 million raised by the main fundraising arm of the Democratic Party in August was overwhelmed by the more than $8 million raised by the Republican National Committee. The DNC’s haul was far lower than the $12 million it raised in June and the $7 million it raised in July.

Yet as the parties prepare for what could be a grueling general election next year, the Democratic stockpile far outweighs the Republicans’. After both parties settle sizable debts, the Republican fundraising committee will have less than $6 million in the bank, compared to $8 million for the Democrats.

And while Republicans will spend considerable energy competing among themselves for the presidential nomination, Democrats can spend those months rallying around President Obama.

In August, the DNC spent nearly $9 million, compared to $6.5 million by the RNC. The Democratic committee has consistently outspent the RNC in recent months.

The RNC is seeking to rebuild its reputation as an effective fiscal steward under the leadership of Reince Priebus, who was paid $14,538 in August. Under the prior chairman, Michael Steele, longtime big-dollar supporters abandoned the committee as its finances were roiled by inefficient spending and a series of scandalous expenses including thousands at a bondage-themed strip club.

The top recipient of DNC funds was Adrienne Donato, a fundraising consultant and 2008 Obama campaign official, who was paid $36,000 last month. She was most recently on the political fundraising payroll of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat.

The national committees are the central contribution-gathering bodies for the parties, and the funds are used to win close-fought seats in the House and Senate as well as purchase advertising and pay staffers, lending the weight of the party machine to its eventual nominee in support of a White House win.

President Obama essentially has joined his campaign committee with the DNC via a “joint fundraising committee,” lending his cache to its efforts just as he will rely on it to fuel much of his re-election effort.

While donations to candidates are limited to $5,000 per election cycle, party committees can receive more than $60,000. Fifty-four percent of the RNC’s donations came from people giving $200 or less, compared with 65 percent of the DNC’s.

But the money behind elections has increasingly played out via outside groups, which despite frequent informal ties to candidates, are forbidden from coordinating directly. While such outside funding insulates parties and campaigns from inflammatory rhetoric, it also takes message control away from the parties, who have traditionally been responsible for carefully scripting the messaging of parties and their candidates.

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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